With shopping habits continuing to change and a general election looming, retailers are all set for a challenging year, yet most are confident of success.
Vice president of George at Asda and George Home
Trading will be tough in 2015 as the trend for discounting continues to prevail. Customers are not as loyal to one brand they love like they used to be - they’ll sit back and wait for the best deals, the best value options and are prepared to shop around to feel like they’ve made the best choices for themselves and their families.
George as a business prides itself on its everyday low prices, but the market remains challenging. The trend for researching the best deals and buying clothing online will remain - we’ve got very big growth plans for George.com.
Vice president, Amazon Fashion EU
The changing weather is an issue which needs consideration in 2015 - we’re witnessing increasingly unpredictable seasonal changes that are difficult to plan for, so expecting the unexpected is more important than ever.
One of the exciting changes that will occur at Amazon this year is the opening of our new EU fashion photography studio, which is under construction and will open in Shoreditch by the summer. The studio will be one of the largest of its kind (at 46,000 sq ft) and we will be producing hundreds of thousands of high-quality images for our sites across Europe.
Chief executive, N Brown Group
The retail market will continue to be extremely competitive and changeable, making it a challenging but exciting sector to be in.
Consumer confidence will keep on gently influencing propensity to spend but we are not anticipating a significant boost from this, and therefore gaining share through being fast, flexible and responsive to consumer needs will be the key to growth.
The sector is becoming more complex with changing demographics and the increasing shift to online and the multichannel model requiring retailers to continuously adapt to satisfy their customers. We have worked to simplify and modernise the way we operate and how we go to market, building on our multichannel offering, including expanding our store portfolio and strengthening our online and international offer.
We have a strong, defined position in the market and will continue with our strategy in 2015 to capitalise on the attractive long-term opportunities that we see in our space and the industry.
Chief executive, Bonmarché
There is plenty to be optimistic about. However, at a minimum, I hope the economic baseline does no worse.
For our business and for our customers, we’re striving for financial stability. So first on my wish list is that the UK economy continues to grow.
Secondly, we await and welcome a pension reform that will help release actual disposable income into our economy, and provide much-needed financial relief for our customers.
And finally, I hope that for Bonmarché’s core consumer demographic, interest rates will finally rise, benefiting their savings and spending.
Naturally, there is also an element of trepidation as we face the year ahead, firstly the upcoming general election and the changes our recovering economy could suffer from under a change of government. Coupled with this is the fear that continuing eurozone weaknesses hold back export growth, which could drag on the UK economy.
From Bonmarché’s perspective, we expect consumers will continue prioritising true value and quality. Convenience-of-purchase is of course a high priority, and we can expect to see retailers boosting their options both in store and online. In terms of our high streets, I certainly hope the government will bring clarity and an action timeline to the much longed-for business rates review.
Overall, we’re confident and hopeful about the year ahead and hope the UK’s high streets have the chance to continue to rebuild and flourish.
Former executive chairman, House of Fraser
I see 2015 progressing much as 2014, with internet sales increasing and dominating the retail sector. A lack of certainty created by the general election could influence economic growth and, if there is no clear government, this will only increase. The living wage will continue to be a major topic of discussion, although other initiatives could be undertaken to improve the economy.
In London it would be helpful if Transport for London allowed free transport between 10.30am and 3pm every day, to reduce costs for part-time workers. If successful this could be looked at in other cities.
Chief executive, Moss Bros
I am quite confident about the year ahead. It is election year, so there is some nervousness about that but I don’t think things will change too drastically.
Days like Black Friday have shown that people will spend if they think they are getting value, and it is very much a digital world.
We have got a lot of refurbishments going on, which will keep us occupied in 2015.
Group trading director, Debenhams
It is set to be an exciting year for retail - from ‘catwalk response’ fashion to multichannel evolution in the way that consumers access, share and buy their favourite items.
For fashion, designers have referenced the late 1960s and early 1970s, with silhouettes, prints and accessories all dominated with designs from the period. The Eastern influence is set to continue with kimono-inspired pieces for relaxed, soft dressing.
A common theme in all the trends predicted for 2015 is wearability - women want functional, fabulous fashion and this was something seen across the catwalks, which is great news for the high street.
In line with the need for wearability, customers also want more ways to access fashion - from information to influence their decision to sharing their item post-purchase. Debenhams has seen a great response to the new click-and-collect service and extended delivery options, which, alongside growing interest in our online and app offerings and fashion content on our social channels and blog, suggests accessibility, shareability and convenience will continue to grow in popularity during the year.
Chief executive, Schuh
This will be another year of accelerated change for retailers. It will create opportunities for those that are able to lever technology to sell more, reduce costs or enhance the customer experience. Mobile payment, in-store Wi-Fi and devices to help customers navigate a store’s inventory will become common on the high street.
Black Friday is now a feature of the UK retail calendar, but retailers need to ensure this is not a race to the bottom. Profit is and always will be reality, while turnover is vanity.
Consumers’ expectations will continue to rise - quicker delivery, faster fashion, better service - all of which will cost the retailer more at a time when they are unable to increase selling prices. Retailers will need to be fitter and quicker in 2015.
Stacey Cartwright Chief executive officer, Harvey Nichols
We expect 2015 to be another challenging year for the retail sector. Against this environment, the savvy retailer has to work that bit harder to provide exceptional customer experience at all touch points.
Harvey Nichols is perfectly positioned to deliver against this landscape with our edit across fashion, beauty, food and wine, complemented by the investment we are making in our physical stores and digital proposition.
Menswear will be a key focus for us in 2015 and the launch of our Birmingham store in the spring will offer a transformative new retail experience.Continued expansion internationally, along with the roll-out of Harveynichols.com, will also be key.
Deputy chief executive and group retail and strategy director, Shop Direct
The time-poor customer is fed up with scrolling through pages of irrelevant products to find something they like. Online retailers have to intuitively know what she wants to give her the same experience she would have if she was shopping in her favourite boutique that she’d frequented for years. This year personalisation will really come to the fore in online retail, and we plan to be leading this.
Buying and merchandising director, Selfridges
We’ll continue to diversify and enrich our high-low offer in 2015, something which has been key to our success this year. This will mean offsetting launches of niche, new-to-market or exclusive labels with large-scale residencies by our international designers and continuing to develop the most authoritative ‘category destinations’ possible - most excitingly, with the first phases of our Oxford Street accessories destination concept.
Chairman, Dune Group
I’m feeling positive about 2015 despite the political and economic uncertainties that accompany a general election. Although consumers are not that bullish, there are signs they will have marginally more disposable income at the end of the year than the beginning.
The same big themes dominate 2015 as in 2014, namely that international and ecommerce are both major drivers of growth for us with more openings in the US and elsewhere. Ecommerce is getting stronger and all the investments we have made in integrating clicks and bricks are paying strong dividends. Online market places are the most interesting development on the horizon in this space.
Unfortunately, the weather will continue its strong influence on trade and, whatever you do, a cold summer and warm winter is always going to have an adverse effect.
Footwear fashion will be textural and colourful with a strong emphasis on wearability and comfort.
Head of The Crown Estate’s Regent Street property portfolio
Retailers to watch are those who make the most of omnichannel retailing, like Burberry. ‘Mega’ supermarkets will continue to be challenged by online ordering and local top-ups.
Regionally, retailers will continue to consolidate into dominant schemes, whether in or out of town. London’s West End will retain its position as the ‘go-to’ first step for overseas retailers looking to gain entry to the UK market, with consumers choosing destinations where the offer is as broad as that online.
The current profitability of department stores means there’s a long shot that a trend reversal could see new entrants into that market.
UK & Republic of Ireland country manager, Bestseller
This will be an exciting year. Our order volume for spring 15 is up 18% and our autumn 15 collections are some of our strongest.
The end-consumer is more demanding and loyalty towards brands is becoming less and less. The brands that are able to adapt to the ever-changing market are the ones that will succeed.
It’s very difficult to predict how the industry will change in 2015; there are so many factors we need to consider. Therefore we must be closer to the customer than ever. We are looking at new ways to work in the showroom and trying to follow the multi-channel offering we see on the high street.
Chief executive, Karen Millen
Creating a truly personalised experience for clients will be both a major opportunity and challenge for retailers in 2015. Whether it is thepersonalisation of the service you offer or the final piece they take home,retailers that are able to put the client at the centre of the whole journey will come out top.
For Karen Millen, that’s about allowing our clients to experience the creative process behind our collections. Our in-store Atelier concept was particularly successful in 2014 and we are planning to roll this out further internationally this year.
Putting technology at the heart of the client experience will also drive retail strategies in 2015, particularly when blurring the boundaries between online and in store. We have seen with our recent launch of Shop Knightsbridge [which allows web users to virtually shop the Knightsbridge store] that clients want an enhanced retail experience, which combines the best from physical and digital retailing.
Chief executive, Jigsaw
Spring will be tricky and the election a consumer distraction, but autumn will be stronger, with climate less of a factor.
There will probably be too much discounting, and the election is going to be brutal but, if you innovate, the economy is strong enough for you to drive decent growth. Other opportunities include making good-value, strategic shop openings due to a high proportion of leases coming to an end in 2015.
All of us will continue to drive our omnichannel proposition as a priority, while on a product basis we will be grappling with the concept of being ‘trans-seasonal’.
Following our best-ever trading year, I feel very positive for 2015. We have a real point of view and momentum. There are great growth opportunities for both bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce, and new markets and ecommerce partnerships provide further possibilities.
The customer is very discerning and, if they are not comfortable with your positioning in the market, it will be very challenging, but with brand clarity comes opportunity. With an established brand loyalty we have been able to avoid a discounting strategy, which has benefitted us greatly.
Executive director of general merchandise, Marks & Spencer
The election will probably cause slight uncertainty, and people may hold off on spending. However, all the intelligence we get through talking to customers says people are feeling optimistic about 2015.
One thing you can’t predict is the weather. If you look at historical seasons, winter rarely begins in August/September - it often doesn’t start until December. We’re looking at how we can encourage customers to layer more and how we can be more versatile.
Online is going to be the main growth channel. Most of our international markets have minimal online penetration, so we have much further to go.
Chief executive officer, Hobbs
This will be an interesting year for brands as the full implications of omnichannel shopping become evident. As well as choices around how customers research, compare and choose to transact, the emergence of omnichannel also gives customers massive choice from a worldwide offer.
This will force brands to become more attuned with customers’ lifecycles and to create compelling propositions rather than continuing to follow traditional trading patterns.
Agility, flexibility and continuous improvement will be the Holy Grail and, within the brand parameters, we will need to find new ways to appeal to customers and create different ways for them to engage with us. We will also need to review operations and systems, measure performance, allocate resources and apportion incentives, thereby ensuring the right mindset throughout the organisation.
Chief executive, Mothercare, and non-executive director, Boohoo.com
Retail will continue to develop apace in response to changing consumer behaviour. We will develop our digital offering to better serve our ‘constantly-on’ mobile customers. Advances will include further integration of digital services into stores, ensuring a seamless experience between digital and physical.
Another key trend will be the continual drive to develop an accurate single view of customers and further refine customer relationship management programmes. Developments here will enable retailers to gain even better insights into how customers interact with their brand and deliver intelligent and personalised experiences at every contact, be it digital or in store.
Many retailers are also likely to be further developing their stores into ‘destinations’, bringing theatre and excitement into the shopping experience. This will be achieved by further integrating digital into stores as well as by adding services and activities which appeal to their customers.
Finally, as consumers’ lives get even busier, retailers will be working hard in 2015 to find ways to make it even easier to receive goods purchased online. Click-and-collect will continue to grow, but finding new, even better options will be on my mind, and many of my colleague’s, as we enter the new year.
Chief executive, Ben Sherman
The year will revolve around four key themes: distribution choices and challenges (web, bricks-and-mortar and wholesale), weather patterns (and how brands adapt); the changing retail landscape (Black Friday, mid-season discounting and the erosion of full-price sales); and continuing economic and global uncertainty.
2014 showed signs of positivity and, if you stay focused, 2015 holds strong opportunities.
Head of curation and merchandising, eBay
The worlds of tech and fashion are set to entwine even further in 2015. This is evident in how shops themselves are changing. In December last year we’ve seen the launch of our first ‘digitally connected’ store with US retailer Nordstrom. Businesses can’t stand still but need to innovate to maintain a competitive advantage and technology is central to this from both an in-store experience and online.
Wearable tech has been sparking interest for the past few years, but is yet to make a significant impact and be fully realised. The launch of the Apple Watch in the spring and other technologies that are set to follow could generate more than a spark of innovation from early adopters clamouring for fashionable slants on wearable tech, which would also be an attractive avenue for the rest of the market.
Executive director of multichannel, House of Fraser
We will see closer integration of the online and offline experience in stores. Retailers are working out the systems integrations required to offer a more seamless and joined-up customer experience and that will lead to more innovation of the retail experience. We should see iBeacons becoming more widespread as well as increased customer usage of mobile wallets and more frictionless payment options.
Convenience is also an area where competitive advantage can be found and this will mean more collection options, as well as faster and more precise delivery options.
Chief executive, Blue Inc
I am feeling cautiously optimistic going into 2015. It is clearly a tough market and things like business rates have been disadvantageous towards the high street versus online, so it will be very helpful to have a review of the system.
There have been a number of casualties and it is still choppy out there with a lot of discounting. However, once the market settles down again, which I think it will do in 2015, there are opportunities on the high street for those with a consistent, niche proposition with good-looking shops and new,
fresh and exciting products.
Chief operating officer, SuperGroup
Some of us are walking into 2015 with enhanced stock levels after what has been a very difficult autumn. The promotional levels, which have been around since the summer, have created an atmosphere that is similar towhat has been going on in the US, and that’s a bit worrying.
We’re a brand that hasn’t historically adopted those tactics - we’re full price-focused and very much about the product, so the type of activity that’s now been live for about six months is raising questions.
I think 2015 is going to be difficult - it is going to come back to service and making sure you are absolutely hitting that benchmark out there.
Chief executive, Little Mistress
In 2015 big data will be bigger. Retailers already use big data but it will be used more widely in 2015. We will all need to invest more into big data to provide personalised experiences to consumers as it allows dynamic pricing, shopper-specific discounts and personalised recommendations.
Businesses will need to take care with data security, as customers will be much more aware that personal information is retained by huge companies.
As far as retail consolidation is concerned, the big will get bigger.
Managing director of Macintosh Fashion UK (owner of Brantano and Jones Bootmaker)
There are encouraging signs that the economic recovery is filtering through to customer spending. But with the election on the horizon in 2015, one can only hope that this does not damage the recovering, but fragile, consumer confidence.
The multichannel model demands retailers meet the expectations of customers in many different ways, but only the best will develop profitable models to embrace the evolving retail landscape.
Director of fashion agency Index London, which represents brands including Baracuta
I feel positive about 2015. It’s the only way to be, as your future doesn’t equal your past. I approach every new year this way and I’m feeling optimistic as we have some fantastic product coming through on the back of decent sell-through in 2014.
In terms of challenges, it will be keeping one step ahead of the high street. In terms of opportunities, it will be 3D-printed shoes. I never thought I’d say that. Also, smartphone technology will continue to boom as the user experience develops. There will be lots more shopping by mobile devices, so make sure your website is smartphone- and tablet-compatible.
Chief executive, Agent Provocateur
We have another 60 shops in the pipeline in the next three years and not one in the UK. Agent Provocateur is a big city brand, so it is really all about London. We have shops in Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham and that’s enough. We need to be in Milan, Paris and those sorts of cities, so there is no real growth for us [in the UK outside London].
It’s tough all over and you have to work hard at your brand to protect the integrity of it. The election could affect things, but one of the worst things in London is the case of business rates - when you open in the US you don’t have anything like that. The government could do something to help retailers but whether they will or not, I don’t know.
Head of global retail research and intelligence at supplier Li & Fung
This year will really see the start of the wearable tech trend, with activewear and technology growing in importance in a fashion sense. All brands, including luxury labels, are responding to the mandate for comfy and casual. Style is fusing with function, so yogapants will become a part of normal daywear.
There are exciting new materials coming out with sensors that can monitor your heartbeat and various other fitness metrics. Users can connect and compete, adding a layer of ‘gamification’.
Digital will be instrumental in the development of deeper consumer relationships, so we should expect myriad new applications over the next few years.
Managing director, Charles Clinkard
The first half of 2015 is going to be challenging with strong figures to beat from 2014 and then the election which, depending on the result, could make things interesting.
Going into the second half of the year, as long as the election result has not derailed the economy, I think there is a good opportunity for growth, particularly in September.
Ecommerce will continue to be our key growth area and my one wish would be for brands to stop supplying retailers large and small who discount all the time, as consumers are now expecting not to have to pay full price for anything!
Fashion and beauty director, Arnotts department store, Dublin
At Arnotts we are looking forward to 2015 with cautious optimism. In Ireland during 2014 we have seen confidence returning with strong growth both in housing and motor sales, and are hoping that this confidence will extend into retail for 2015.
Customers will continue to be very focused on value for money, and investment buying will be at the forefront when making decisions.
The in-store experience is becoming a major factor for customers, and it will become increasingly important to offer customers reasons to spend more time in your store. Through our continued investment both in store and online we feel that Arnotts is very well positioned to take advantage of growing consumer confidence.